So in the spirit of school starting back up and the fact that I haven’t posted any new work… here’s an excerpt of something I’m working on. It’s in it’s draft form so yeah, typos, misspellings, whatever.
The story is about a daughter returning home to see her father on his death bed. The work is yet untitled. Hope you enjoy. Let me know what you think in the comments section.
I grabbed my bags from the back of the weary truck as Mommy placed heavy rocks in front of its two front tires. As I pushed the dull-blue gate open, it sighed as if relieved from a heavy burden. Carefully, mostly because I was no longer use to it, I walked down the worn cement slope of the front courtyard past the blooming pink flower tree and the stack of cut wood for cooking. Soon, too soon, I was at the front door, which was part of a screen opening that wrapped around the part of the house exposed to the elements. It was like a human chicken coop.
“Wipe your feet before going in so that the bad luck doesn’t get in.”
The bad luck? It’s always about luck, and mystical work done by dead pious people, the unholy work done by the less pious, and those who can control either side with smoke and chicken feathers. How about the reality, that shit just happens in the world and you either deal with it or not. Luck has nothing to do whether or not I clean my feet on what was surely a 10 year old mat she bought from whatever mystic was in season.
So glad I left this damn town when I did. So glad dad pissed me off enough to leave. So glad that I became what I did, the cautious skeptic instead of a believer of false prophecies.
I pulled back the door and walked in to smack myself in the face with the rest of my memories. The rainbow striped hammock between the beams I slept in when the house was too hot, the table for meals which sat four but only had three chairs on the count that the fourth side was rammed up against the wall. In the back, behind a makeshift wooden door was the kitchen, state-of-the-art in 1900: top of the line stove with no burners and heated with wood we chopped ourselves, knives crafted and sharpened by the local blacksmith, window with a cement sink and a water house to wash the dishes. Plain was the house that raised me, complicated was the life it bore.
“Don’t just stand there like you’ve seen a ghost. Put your stuff in the living room.”
“He’s in the back where he’s always been. But don’t go thinking you’ll be sleeping in your old bed. You’re gonna be in the little house by the chicken coup where the corn husks use to be. You’re a woman now and you need your privacy.”
“Privacy? Since when has that been in word in this house?”
“Now you stop that.”
Mommy’s finger found its way to my face and the disappointment from earlier became disgust. Mom’s eyes were cold and still. There was no more warmth there. The Mom from the airport was gone. This was a woman with fear and an unbreakable faith even when the sky was falling. And today, the Heavens were raining.
“These are your Daddy’s final days and you will be respectful. He’s held on this long to see you again. You were his life, even after you broke his heart.”
What about when he broke mine?
She lowered her finger but her stare didn’t soften. I did as I was told; I couldn’t fight against the determined or my mother. I walked up the two concrete steps into the house and placed my bags just inside the doorway. Further in our small house the uncarpeted space doubled as a living room, bedroom and closet. In the space, in the corner, was the large wooden wardrobe where the nicer clothes and linens were stored to keep them from getting old. The key was always in my mother’s apron and the guardian always asked the reason to open it. In the living room section was the television set from when I still lived here. Of course it still worked, since I was the only one who watched it. Across from it was the refrigerator where I was sure housed all the milk and cream and eggs for the week. And in the furthest corner was a simple bed with a metal frame. My mother must sleep there now that Daddy was sick.
“He’s in the back. Probably asleep. Go ahead.
“You’re not coming with me?”
She shook her head and left.
And so here it was. Thirteen years of life behind us both and me with nothing to say. What could I say? Dad, when you told me that my ability to call people with my mind was going to cause a death and that I couldn’t avoid it, what did you expect me to do? But when you said it was going to be Billy’s death…how we could never be together because it was a death sentence…how could I live with myself…knowing…anticipating that his death would be through my hands?
And then, in that moment in front of the curtain that separated the living room from his death chamber, came the guilt, the anger, the sorrow of a former life with innocence and promise. All of that glued me to the floor. I wanted to keep my distance.
So I ran out of the house. Past my yelling mother. Past the sighing gate. Down the stone street. Down. Down. Down. Until it curved to the left and I found myself in front of Billy’s old house, abandoned and ruined like the houses in Theresa. I didn’t know why I ran there, what I expected to find. Not Billy, of course. He’d long left Santa Rosa. But I needed to go inside because I yearned for the safety of his home, the smells from his mother’s kitchen, which wasn’t like my own. The familiar echoing sound of the hallways that made me laugh. The billowing curtains that reminded me of fish gills. Like when I was younger, I knew nothing bad could happen to me here. Nothing did. There wasn’t good luck or bad luck. No multicolored necklaces to ward off evil spirits. No wiping feet to avoid evil or to keep cleanliness because cleanness was next to Godiless and God didn’t like ugly. Ugly like my house. Like when we put an egg under the bed to soak up the evil eye of others. Ugly like when my parents made me bathe in sweet smelling water with eggs yolks, perfume, and white rose petals to attract the favor of the spirits. Ugly liked how my daddy made me feel when he said that the boy I liked, who liked me back, maybe even loved, because at that age it was always love, would die. At my hands. Because my brain couldn’t stop calling him to be here, next to me, talking to me, holding my hand, kissing me like in those movies we weren’t suppose to watch. Here, right here, right now. And it was all much too much to bear so he sent me away so I could stop. Stop thinking.
But in his house, Billy’s house, my brain stopped. He was there. I was there. And it felt more like home than home. Beyond home—peace.
I wanted to be in a cocoon, feasting on my memories of him, the ones I had deprived myself of for so long. But standing in front of his house, again, I was glue.
Stuck. Just like I’d always been.
After a few minutes, I stopped. I had thought of him enough. Enough. Where ever he was, he needed to be safe.
It was nearly dusk when I reached my house again. My mother was absent. Surely, at Manuel the Healer’s house for some answers to my atrocious behavior. Answers to how she could have such an insolent daughter who didn’t believe.
I moved the curtain and ducked into the room. The basic lamp gave it a warm welcoming glow like honey. Night was moments from arriving and the screenless window was open. Clothes hung neatly from nails hammered into the white walls, or were folded and placed in large colored tubs that filled corners like plugs or were placed under the bed.
My dad laid in said bed in the corner like a forgotten shirt or sock. And he looked forgotten—his beard and hair were stone gray and matted. His once smooth ebony face, distinguished and sharp featured, was filled with deep wrinkles and folds. But the skin on his arms and on the part of his legs not covered with the thin blanket, hugged his bones as if they were sucking the reminder of life from him. His body was a rail, thin as if he had been wasting away for years, as if all the moisture had been removed from his body, as if it was painful to move, to breathe. White socks covered his feet but I imagined them to look as the rest of him did, a decayed, mute carcass.
This was once a man who carried chopped wood for the stove. This was once a man who carried his wife across a threshold and his daughter to bed when she was sick. And now this man looked like he could barely carry a thought.
The slits opened and revealed creamy blue eyes rimmed in gold. Even with the light from the lamp, I could tell he was struggling to react to my arrival.
I wanted to cry. I wanted the tears to pour down like rains from the heavens if for only to return some of my father’s life. But instead I kissed his bony cheek and held his skeletal hand and looked at his new face, trying desperately to remember the old one. Maybe I was trying to replace one imagine for another to make myself feel better about the last couple of years. Or maybe it was just easier to live in a type of lie, if only temporary, to hide the slow death in front of me.
If I had been here, this would not have happened. Then again, if I had been here, Billy would be dead. How was I to know that one life was traded for another?
“Don’t.” The word was a like a skipped record. He tried to smile. “Remember what I told you.”
“Why?” He managed to ask.
“Scared. I didn’t want him to die.”
He closed his eyes and slowly opened them again.
Suddenly, a loud BOOM erupted and shook the house like paper sack. Pieces of ceiling rained on us. I lost my footing so I let go of Daddy’s hand to balance myself on the other bed. The nail gave way to the shakes and clothes tumbled to the floor, the wire hangers in a jumbled mess. Then down came the knick knacks on the dresser, framed pictures, water glasses ¾ the way filled to keep the saints happy. Down came the lamp, the bulb shattered like delicate glass as dark over powered it.
And as sudden as it started it stopped. It took a second for my eyes to adjust to the dim light from a nearly set sun.
A groan rumbled in the darkness. I felt around for his hand but it was like holding on to air.
“Daddy. It’s okay. I’m here. The shaking stopped.”
Mom, came running in, an oil lamp holding an oil lamp.
And just as the last sound escaped her mouth it came back in a gasp. Shock clung to her face and froze it.
I followed her gaze to my father’s bed where he laid stiff, as if he has just turned to stone, his hands reaching toward me. And his eyes stuck in mid stare at me, like Christ looking up at the heavens.